Wildlife and Emerging Zoonotic Diseases: The Biology, Circumstances and Consequences of Cross-Species Transmission

Volume 315 of the series Current Topics in Microbiology and Immunology pp 1-31

Introduction: Conceptualizing and Partitioning the Emergence Process of Zoonotic Viruses from Wildlife to Humans

  • James E. ChildsAffiliated withDepartment of Epidemiology and Public Health and Center for Eco-Epidemiolog, Yale University School of Medicine
  • , Jürgen A. RichtAffiliated withVirus and Prion Diseases of Livestock Research Unit, National Animal Disease Center USDA
  • , John S. MackenzieAffiliated withCentre for Emerging Infectious Diseases, Australian Biosecurity Cooperative Research Centre, Curtin University of Technology

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This introduction provides a telegraphic overview of the processes of zoonotic viral emergence, the intricacies of host–virus interactions, and the distinct role of biological transitions and modifying factors. The process of emergence is conceptualized as two transition stages which are common and required for all disease emergence, (1) human contact with the infectious agent and (2) cross-species transmission of the agent, and two transition stages which are not required for emergence and appear unavailable to many zoonotic pathogens, (3) sustained human-to-human transmission and (4) genetic adaptation to the human host. The latter two transitions are presumably prerequisites for the pandemic emergence of a pathogen. The themes introduced herein are amplified and explored in detail by the contributors to this volume. Each author explores the mechanisms and unique circumstances by which evolution, biology, history, and current context have contrived to drive the emergence of different zoonotic agents by a series of related events; although recognizable similarities exist among the events leading to emergence the details and circumstances are never repetitive.